Nigerian-American ImeIme Umana is first black woman in 130 years to be elected as President of Harvard Law Review, 27 years after Barack Obama held same office

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Updated: March 8, 2021

Nigerian-American ImeIme Umana is the first black woman in 130 years to be elected as President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, 27 years after Barack Obama, who would later become first black President of the United States, held the same position.

Nigerian immigrant
ImeIme Umana, the newly elected president of the Harvard Law Review, at the journal’s offices. Credit – Tony Luong for The New York Times

The 24-year old is the third-oldest of four daughters of Nigerian immigrants.

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Umana was elected on January 29 by the review’s 92 student editors as the president of the 131st volume, according to the New York Times.

The Times said “The Harvard Law Review — which, like other law reviews, allows students to hone their legal writing skills and gives scholars a forum in which to thrash out legal arguments — is often the most-cited journal of its kind and has the largest circulation of any such publication in the world”.

The respected newspaper said “its presidency is considered the highest-ranking student position at the ferociously competitive law school and a ticket to virtually anywhere in the legal realm. Half of the current Supreme Court justices served on the Harvard Law Review, though none as its president”.

“It still feels like magic that I’m here,” Ms. Umana said in an interview.

But her fellow students told the Times “it was not magic at all but her sharp legal mind, intense work ethic, leadership ability and generosity of spirit that catapulted her to the top”.

The newspaper added that “Ms. Umana’s emergence now has raised questions about why it took so long for a black woman to reach the pinnacle of the review and how her perspective may influence a publication that has for most of its existence been led by white men”.

“I’m constantly reminded of people like Natasha McKenna and Tanisha Anderson and Sandra Bland, whose relationships with the law were just simply tragic,” she said.

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Simon Ateba Washington DC
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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